- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2009

PUZZLING

“I’m sitting here digesting the news of [Nebraska Sen.] Ben Nelson’s caving to the pressure and the Dems passing the Reid bill. I don’t get it. Honestly. I realize that passing a health care bill has become a political imperative. But I don’t understand why this bill meets the need,” DouglasHoltz-Eakin writes in a blog at www.NationalReview.com.

“To begin, it is extremely unpopular. Sixty four percent of Americans don’t think it meets their priorities for reform. And it will be even more unpopular in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 - years in which the harsh medicine of higher taxes and regulatory takeover will produce sharp premium increases and less satisfactory care. Only in 2014 does the massive redistribution start, and Dems might get some relief from their purchased constituencies,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin said.

“On top of that, the schedule is now such that they will have to go back to the House in early 2010 and deal with a likely revolt against the absence of a ‘public plan’ and the tax on ‘Cadillac’ plans. So, just at the time when [President] Obama is going to need Dems to close ranks and support him on Afghanistan, the ranks will be splitting. Why pass a bill that will create more problems for the divided party?

“Finally, it is now clear that the pressure is rising over the massive spending and deficits. Obama will clearly want to devote substantial rhetorical effort on this front in the State of the Union speech, and put out a budget that has at least cosmetic fiscal courage. To do this at the same time he might be signing a budget-busting $2.5 trillion health-spending bill will make a mockery of the effort.

“So, count me disappointed that we didn’t get real reform. But count me baffled as to why we got this.”

‘CHEAP DATE’

“In a radio interview on Thursday, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson boasted that, compared to some of his colleagues, he was a ‘cheap date,’ holding out as he was as a matter of principle and not for some outlandish dropping of federal largesse in Nebraska,” James C. Capretta and Yuval Levin write in a blog at WeeklyStandard.com.

“Now that Sen. Nelson has announced his intention to vote to end debate on the Reid bill, it’s worth looking at whether his actions match his words.

“For days, Senator Nelson insisted that his pressing concern was abortion. He didn’t like the language in the Reid legislation that would effectively allow taxpayer subsidies to flow to insurance plans covering elective abortions. He told his colleagues and his home state pro-life supporters that he wouldn’t settle for anything less than Hyde [Amendment]-like language, such as was successfully pushed by Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak in the House.

“The model here is the federal employees health benefits program (FEHBP). Taxpayer money pays for a large portion of the health insurance premium for federal workers. Consequently, the law has, for many years, prohibited any insurance plan participating in the program from offering coverage of elective abortions. That’s right. No Member of Congress, even ardent pro-abortion advocates, is allowed to sign up with an insurance plan that pays for abortion-on-demand. This is long-standing and settled policy, and has not been all that controversial with the public for many years.

“The new insurance exchanges would, like FEHBP, offer various insurance plans to enrollees, and for the vast majority of participants, federal subsidies would pay for a portion of the premium. Pro-lifers have rightly insisted that as the federal government ‘manages’ and subsidizes insurance choices for more people, an FEHBP-like restriction is what’s needed, and that’s exactly what Rep. Stupak’s amendment would accomplish.

“But that’s not what’s in the new Reid bill. The new Reid language that Sen. Nelson now finds acceptable would allow federal subsidies to flow to plans that cover elective abortions in the insurance exchanges. Senate Democrats try to create the impression that only the enrollees’ premiums will pay for the abortion coverage. But it’s an artificial bookkeeping exercise. Taxpayer funding would support the same insurance policies that pay for abortions.”

THREAT FROM WITHIN

“I am a baby boomer, which is to say my life has coincided with turbulent and awesome times,” New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin writes.

“From the Cold War to Vietnam, from Watergate to Monicagate, through the horrors of 9/11 and the stunning lifestyle advances, my generation’s era has been historic and exciting,” Mr. Goodwin said.

“Yet for all the drama and change, the years only occasionally instilled in me the sensation I feel almost constantly now. I am afraid for my country. I am afraid - actually, certain - we are losing the heart and soul that made America unique in human history. Yes, we have enemies, but the greatest danger comes from within.

“Watching the freak show in Copenhagen last week, I was alternately furious and filled with dread. The world has gone absolutely bonkers and lunatics are in charge.

Dictators [Robert] Mugabe [of Zimbabwe] and [Hugo] Chavez [of Venezuela] are treated with respect, and the United Nations is serious about wanting to regulate our industry and transfer our wealth to kleptocrats and genocidal maniacs.

“Even more frightening, our own leaders joined the circus. Marching to the beat of international drummers, they uncoupled themselves from the will of the people they were elected to serve.

President Obama, for whom I voted because I believed he was the best choice available, is a profound disappointment. I now regard his campaign as a sly bait-and-switch operation, promising one thing and delivering another. Shame on me. Equally surprising, he has become an insufferable bore. The grace notes and charm have vanished, with peevishness and petty spite his default emotions. His rhetorical gifts now serve his loathsome habit of fear-mongering.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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